I make this fortnightly visit to my Village to check on my senior-citizen parents, driving from Salem through the Bengaluru National Highway, breaking-off at Thevettipatti, then on to Danishpet, Lokur, to Bommidi and finally to my Sembiyanoor Village. This is a spectacular sylvan drive, with ranges of lush-green hills quietly watching over, and the two-lane State Highway, off the National Highway, on this route is pampered and very well maintained – somebody is doing a damn good job. Recently, it received ‘edge extensions and make-up’ and I noticed that one side was dug up to sewer depth and filled with hard gravel layer-by-layer before topping and finishing it off with dear old asphalt – on which I drove this time. Wow, that was awfully smooth! The road meanders like a lost river finding its own water level and is pregnant with dangerous curves – which I hug with all my heart! No question of a #MeToo lust over here; I’m on firm legal ground!
The Farm House where my parents live borders a Forest on the edge of the Shevaroy Hills, of Yercaud fame, and often we have the Indian Bison / Wild Buffaloes – Gaur/Bos Gaurus – as visitors. I ran into one, sometime back- a handsome guy with white patches at the knees and the forehead, and beautifully curled horns. We started at each other – me from behind the car windscreen and He (I guess) from the background of a rich foliage of wild bush, and then he backed-off, having seen eye-to-eye and not liking it, allowing me to drive for my life! Ever since, Dad has erected barbed wire fences to keep the wild and curled beasts at bay and shut-down any unwelcome stares.
Dad, as usual, started the conversation with his endless and ever growing list of worries and why it’s so difficult to till the land. He has talked this way, perhaps for the hundredth time. The conversation then veered to the upcoming ‘Meat Function’ also called the ‘Keda Virunthu’ (Male-Goat Feast) being organised by the next-but-one-door Farm where, eleven standing-tall goats have been readied for a bloody kill. Their daughter, given in marriage to a School Teacher in a nearby Town, finally bore a bonny son three years ago – after almost eleven years of marriage. The child was conceived through the In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) route, after many failed natural attempts. The occasion was to celebrate the birth, and why not? The eleven goats were a sacrificial offering to eleven different Gods (may be a dearer God, got more than one) to whom the Parents had diligently prayed to bless their only daughter with a child. I jokingly told Dad that they should also consider offering a Goat to me as well, as I had introduced them to the IVF route, on a first try- which was unsuccessful, to a Doctor in Salem I knew very well; and thereafter set them a ‘Management Style’ goal of getting a baby within a year; and they just did it. Of course, they gathered enough ‘fertile momentum’ to make the baby on their own efforts by zeroing in on a popular successful baby-producing IVF Clinic in the nearby Town of Erode.
With the almighty Gods very much in the scene now, Dad then progressed to the higher levels of prophecy-making, oracle sayings, witch-craft, and propitiating the Gods to achieve what could not be achieved through ordinary every-day toil means. An Aunt living across the River, from the Farm, is a dead-serious devotee of Lord Muniappan who has a Temple to himself, in the vicinity of her House. At the throw of an offering of fruit, ash, vermillion and flowers she flies into a trance and speaks God’s word. Dad then revealed that many years ago he himself had approached her on the outcome of a problem he was struggling with, concerning a right-of-way claim, right through the very middle of our farm – when there was actually none. Through her, God spoke and said that his efforts will get paid and he will emerge victorious, but after a struggle. Dad did.
There was another story of one of the Aunt’s own grandchildren, and her daughter approaching her with a fluent offering, to advice on the career to be chosen. ‘God’ speaks and says that he could well become a Doctor, subject to the condition that he treats the poor and needy free-of-cost. Lo! the boy is now studying medicine in a Medical College in Salem.
The next story was about the newly-built and recently commissioned Sembiyanoor Mariamman Temple and how a water-starved farmer approached the presiding Goddess, for a water source after which he succeeded in finding sufficient water in a new Bore Well – better than anything he had seen on his farm. He refuses to reveal the quantity of flow for fear of neighbour’s envy killing the stream. He then, as a thanksgiving, offered free food (and lots of water, of course) for a day, to all devotees thronging the new Temple.
By now Dad saw the sneer on my face and my growing restlessness on this medieval, irrational barbaric madness and sums up with: ‘…well, 95% of the people do this kind of a thing and run after Gods and it doesn’t really matter if you are in the 5% who thinks scientifically and rationally; to hell with your books and reading, who has time for them?’ Well, I think religion is more about growing internally than making a show of external worship – he may never understand.
On the ride back to Salem, I wondered with all the advancement of knowledge, and the Newtons, Einsteins and Stephen Hawkings, there is still so much of irrationality living in the neighbourhood! How many more Big Bangs do we require? Maybe, I should offer a Goat to that…after consulting the Aunt, in question, and having a ‘live chat’ with Lord Muniappan!
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